The real reason we lost our jobs to robots is because our educational system trains our children to be parts of an 18th century world wide computer system that no longer exists.

This is why children in the 21st century still have nonsensical rules like “you can’t use a calculator on your math test” with the bizarre justification that “You won’t always have a calculator with you” just as they’re Snapchatting that exact absurd moment to their worldwide friends on a device which literally does a billion times more math than the room-sized computers that sent men to the moon. In school, you have to memorize to be able to do simple arithmetic, including long division in case you become a cog in the global human computer that was the great economic machine at the center of all human commercial activity.

Your handwriting must be uniform and precise. You must arrive on time and not leave before the specified time or else face penalties. Any human eccentric variation in these aspects could jam up the human computer and break the system. Thus, uniformity is valued and encouraged in this 18th century ideal of a young worker.

In the 18th century, preparing a population of replaceable computer parts for your global information network made a lot of sense. You needed to be able to find a part with legible handwriting and capable accounting skills to serve as your word processor or spreadsheet or to replace a broken part of your word processor or spreadsheet. In the old days, parts of your human computer could literally die. And you thought losing your iPhone pictures was bad. At least they’re still up in the cloud. Old Wentworth might be up in the cloud after losing his bout with Scarlet Fever, but you’re not getting your data back from him. However, we now have such things as actual computers which handle the tasks of global communication, commerce, and arithmetic far more reliably and cheaply.

We no longer need children to memorize capitals of states and countries so they can potentially serve as a shoddy version of Google Maps. We no longer need children to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is not even on Google Maps, nor John F. Kennedy’s speech to serve as a living embodiment of an oral version of Wikipedia as if it were some Fahrenheit 451 dystopia where such information would be lost otherwise. Just now, I wasn’t sure how to spell dystopia, but a two second alt-tab to Google provided me the answer. Although such things are not important anymore, we still have spelling bees for children to exalt this useless skill. We’re told not to use the word “I” in our writing, because writing must be messages intended not for other humans, with senses of humor, but for the global computer made of humans. Never use the word “I” in your writing because you’re not expected to actually communicate with other humans. Your expectation is to communicate only to other parts of the machine which happens to be made up of anonymous humans. Soylent Computer is MADE OF PEOPLE! In fact, in your writing, the more you downplay and disregard that there is a human which is a computer part, the better it is for the computer. Soylent computer runs smoother and more consistently if emotions and human blather like love are left out entirely. Surely, this makes sense. I certainly agree with my 18th century intelligensia that my word processor and my spreadsheet are not made any better by allowing the CPU and internet connection to have human emotions. What a mess that would be.

The real reason we lost our jobs to robots and automation is because our educational system trains our children to be a shitty computer and far far better computers exist now. Instead of training our children to design and invent those robots, our educational system trains our children to BE those robots. Is it any surprise that shitty child robots grow up to be shitty adult robots who can’t compete against actual real and working robots? Is it any surprise that of the few children who can invent a robot to replace 1000 shitty human robots, that the one clever child who invents the robot makes 1000 times as money as those children would have made?

Income inequality, poverty, and joblessness all stem from one source: Computers advanced far faster at an exponential rate than innovation in our educational system. Our educational system was good for the 200 years in which global society used a Soylent Computer. But now that it’s clear that Soylent Computer is no longer needed, we need to change our educational system to reflect that profound change.

So, this is a call to everyone who can make change in the system. The system needs to change. And it must change fast. It’s changing far too slowly and the nation’s citizens are suffering for it for every moment we lag behind. Computers are still advancing exponentially. And the educational system is hardly even advancing linearly. It is static. It’s still stuck in the 18th century. The longer this remains the case, the more people who will be hurt by being born into this stagnant situation.

However, not all people of the earth will be born into this situation. There are many billions of people who, had they been born in the 18th century, would not have been born into an educational system which afforded them the potential to work at Soylent Computer. They would not have received the education to even be a cog in the human computer. They would not have participated in the world economy at any level.

People of China, of India, of Africa could have never participated in the global economy in the 18th century. Yet, now, going into the 21st century, they are not yoked as children into an 18th century rigid educational system. Instead, with no educational system at all, those nations and peoples are free to invent one which is suitable for the realities of the 21st century in which global communications and computers are ubiquitous.

Just as China did not have to build telegraph wires across their entire mountainous and difficult terrain to join the telecommunications revolution, future children of the world no longer have to endure the intermediate step of an antiquated educational system in order to participate in a dynamic and rapidly evolving world economy.

If America loses its dominance, it will be fast because the world moves so much faster now. The root cause will be because of its educational system. Just as in warfare where innovations such as rifling or camouflage or armored vehicles have a profound and upsetting effect on the nations which have met previous success with the status quo, the future of the global economy does not belong to the nations which adhere to the status quo, but instead adapt unrelentingly to the pace of change.

This is why conservatives, in the traditional sense of the word, as in “preserving the status quo”, are far more dangerous to the future of the United States than anyone dare thought, even in its current chaotic and turbulent state.

The pace of global change is so fast that you can put a man on the moon less than a hundred years after learning to fly and then subsequently land a probe on a comet in the same time as the first plane and landing on the moon. Being conservative and adverse to change in this situation is believing that the right shoes can win a footrace against a Ford Model T when the Tesla has already been invented. The man in the Tesla will beat your man with his best shoes on any day, often with heated seats and without touching the wheel.

The world is changing far far faster than the educational system. Even if we were to reverse this trend tomorrow, how much change would be necessary in order for it to make a difference? It would still be too slow. There are billions yet to be born in China and India into this new world economy. Your change to the educational system in the US would only affect millions in a few decades. Do the math. They taught you to do that, by hand, right? Now, do it. You didn’t. Because you know, like the future of the nation, someone else will do it for you, and more efficiently than by hand, at that. In two hundred years, how many billions will have been born into an educational system adapted to current conditions versus how many millions in the US born into an educational system still trying to figure itself out? Just going by the numbers, which system would be most likely to produce the most impactful citizens of the new world economy?

And conservatives want to keep out immigrants? If conservatives love this country, they would be advocating for the exact opposite immigration strategy. At the moment, the US still stands as a coveted nation for immigration. How long will this remain true? A hundred years, at best, given the current rate of progress of other nations and the stagnation of the US. And how does it benefit the US if it loses the status of the most preferred nation by the world’s intellectuals, the world’s most talented people, and the world’s most wealthy people? Easily within 100 years, which, given current advances, it will be within youlifetime if you’re only 10 or 20 years younger than me, the US will no longer hold the esteemed title of most coveted country for immigration. That will be the inflection point at which historians will be able to point to and say that this was the fall of the American empire. That will be the point in time, like the collapse of the Roman Empire, which will attract the most historian scrutiny. But lost in history will be the time and moment when the American empire had the means to change all of that. Perhaps, some historians will point to the election of Trump as the inflection point in which this inevitable turn of events hinged. But this problem is beyond Trump and beyond Clinton. Clinton may have been more tolerant of change than Trump, but she would not have been an advocate of radical change in the educational system since she was most definitely, a moderate, at best. No, the necessary change to alter future history is not anything any politician can realistically implement anyway. The systems of education and politics are too calcified to change faster than the rapid iteration of innovation in human economic activity. Even revolutions did not change the educational systems throughout society. A political revolution is about the maximal change possible in such systems and not all of it may have an immediate positive effect. So, how many revolutions per hundred years would be required to keep up with the relentless pace of change in technological innovation? A thousand per century? Ten thousand? The pace of technological innovation is ridiculous.

Systems such as education and politics which deal with people cannot keep up with the pace of technology. Thus, problems of loss of job skills and economic disenfranchisement will be the primary perennial problems of a post-scarcity world economy for humans. Computers and robots will be fine. But humans live in a wide logarithmic gap between geological scale and computer nanosecond scale. And their silly feelings will need to be assuaged to cope with post-post-modern life lest they cause societal problems with their emotions. Ironically, after being freed from being a human computer cog by real computers, human beings will still be encouraged to suppress their feelings in a world dominated by computers and robots simply because feelings and emotions and irrationality become the greatest threat to destroy a highly ordered and computerized world economy.

The crucial moment when we can still do something about this inevitable collision course with fate is now. Yet, nothing will be done and the events I have described will simply play out as it does in a heavily foreshadowed script. A single person is no longer enough to change history now that billions of people have the opportunity to join the world economy. The myth of the great person only works if there are only so few people in the world that their noble lineage can all be traced such that inevitably a single person with opportunity may arise from that small population of known nobility. The days of nobility are over, now that the opportunity to become great may be afforded to more people than only the nobility. The massive human crush of billions of middle class people will have their own revolution in nothing so dramatic as Marie Antoinette, but whose effects will have far-reaching worldwide consequences nonetheless.

April 9, 2017

Eu-Ming Lee

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